Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be

Participating, as opposed to standing around gawking, is valued here, so as I planned this trip I sought out a place where I could contribute to make the magic happen. It’s Monday morning. The dust is resting and the sky is blue here at Burning Man and I’m off for my first shift as an assistant stage manager for the Center Cafe.

I like the idea of this stage, where only original material is performed twenty-four hours a day. Years of writing self-published science fiction has left me with a huge soft spot for artists of all types who summon up their inner muse and then unveil those fragile creations in front of a potentially hostile world.

When I arrive, I find a universe that is gentler and more accepting than I hoped. Staff and performers hug, compliment and encourage. Some acts are polished and great fun to watch. Others are raw creations, not ready for prime time elsewhere. Yet, they are cheered on by this coffee-sipping audience that seems to understand the fragility of nascent artistry .

I receive quick and generous praise from everyone for being a warm, helpful and happy human. How odd. Is this worthy of praise?

Then it occurs to me. Back in the default world, I often work at being less helpful than I want to be. Less warm, less encouraging. I make an effort to smile less. I’ve had decades of signals from others that my natural behavior is at best odd and at worst downright annoying.

Here? I’m not doing that. And they seem to like it. A lot. Wow.

After four joy-filled hours of finding kind words for everyone that crosses my path, I’m high as a kite. I’m being myself and it is more fun than I’ve had in a long while.

Burning Man is considered by many who don’t know much about it to be a yearly drunken and drugged-out Bacchanalia involving sex, nudity and general bad behavior. Yes, I suppose there is some of that, though I’ve encountered little to none.  Camp mates tell me most of the hard partying I’ve heard of will happen late in week when non-participants pour in. The little that is happening now? You really have to go looking to find it.

Thanks to people I’m close to, I already know of other sides to this event. There is the self-reliance of erecting what is essentially a tent city for 80,000 in a place where the alkaline soil is so damaging that there is zero plant and animal life. That’s right: no cacti, no lichen, no ants, no scorpions, no bugs. Nothing lives here, except for a lone type of microbe in the soil. And 80,000 people for one week every year.

There is also a sense of community. We help each other; we give gifts of words, actions and things. As I leave the Center Cafe I wander around, stumbling on the sizable AA area set up to encourage burners who need to avoid altered states. I stop at the mobility camp, providing aid to burners likely to find life here even more challenging.

I can see the temple in the distance. Each year it is designed by a different artist. Over the course of the week it will be filled with notes and photos and memorabilia from those who have died this past year, along with musings and memories that are meaningful to this year’s participants. Sunday night, after the man has burned and the weekend crowds are gone, the temple will be set aflame. I’m already fascinated by this and I pause outside the tent of the temple guardians. Maybe one year that will be me ….

I climb a platform to look over this rapidly growing tent city. I found it a little presumptuous when I entered on Saturday and was given the traditional greeting for this event. Welcome home.

This isn’t my home, I thought then. But now, I can see how in some way it just might be.

Today’s rule of the road? It is a bad idea to pretend to be meaner or more miserable than you are, just to make meaner and more miserable people like you.

Today’s song? I had a few ideas for this one, but I finally settled on Jewel performing with a live orchestra. Give this video a few seconds, she does appear and I’ll think you enjoy what you see.

 

 

 

 

Day 12. I Want to Scream.

This is the day when I’m tired of driving, and exhausted by road construction and the desolation. I don’t want to listen to any of my music any more. I can’t get comfortable. Every little town looks like the one in this picture. Nothing sounds good for lunch, so I don’t even bother to stop. I recognize I’m getting cranky.

Then I hit a one lane stretch of road, and just miss being part of the group on my side that gets to go through. I wait for 25 minutes, with my left arm hanging out the south-facing drivers side baking in the sun and turning red as I simmer. It’s time to get off the road.

I’m lucky this is my last day of driving until day 19. Tomorrow my journey makes a drastic change as I head into the wild for six days of camping. I’ll be out of my car and off the grid, and will resume posting my rules of the road and my song of the day once I’m back.

Today’s rule of the road? Sometimes you are cranky. It’s alright. That’s when you focus on something else instead.

I let my mind wander to tomorrow and wrote this in my head as I was baking in the noon sun, wondering when my lane would be allowed to go forward.

Listen. Hear that sound? It’s your heart beating, happy to be alive and hoping for an adventure. Go with it. Take that last step and start your journey.

Once my car was moving again, I found the music that spoke to the restlessness in my soul. It was classical, the most up tempo and passionate classical pieces I could find. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor was great, and this version by a UK group called Sky captured every nuance of my desire to JUST SCREAM. I played it a few times and felt far better.

 

 

This box goes everywhere with me

I wrote it in bold magic marker, lest the cardboard container get mixed in with the books going to storage or the dishes going to Goodwill. When I realized what I had started, I smiled.

Dalai 10I was making a “happiness box” and filling it with my most precious treasures. Over the next month and half I will be living four or five different places and staying in several hotel rooms as I coordinate a move across country with the timing of selling a home. I will actually couch surf, a little unusual for a professional woman my age. Outwardly, I say it is going to be no problem. I’m a highly flexible human. The child inside me knows otherwise. She is scared about having nothing to hold on to, and she is the one who started this box.

First thing to go in it? The bowl I like to use for popcorn. Makes sense. You can pretty much do popcorn anywhere. It never fails to bring cheer. Second item – my favorite glass for wine. My inner child isn’t really a child. The lady within wants a cloth napkin she can use anywhere, and the wanderer in my head has added my passport. Yeah, I ought to keep that with me anyway.

This box isn’t even half full yet, and that’s good. There are a whole host of other folks that live in my brain, and they are all clamoring for something small to hold on to. It is funny how having one small container forces you to select the things that really matter. As I continue to pack, I suspect it will be surprising what some of those things turn out to be.

What do Captain Picard, Bill Cosby and Mother Teresa have in common?

PicardIf it helps, you can throw in Lady Gaga, Leonard Cohen, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Dumbledore. Answer. Someone thinks that all of these people/ fictional characters belong to the tiny one percent of the population that is introverted, led by their feelings, prone to rely on their intuition and yet sort of type A personalities. I agree it is an odd combo and I ought to know. Four officially administered Myers Briggs tests have placed me squarely in this INFJ sliver of humanity and I suppose I take some comfort in it. I always felt like I was a little odd. Now I know it for a fact.

click for great INFJ description

click for great INFJ description

Of course, when it comes to fictional characters’ personality types, people are just guessing, and when it comes to celebrities they may be doing the same. I’ve heard that Myers Briggs reminds a lot of  people of astrology. You know, the way that Woody Allen, Taylor Swift and Brad Pitt and I are all blunt, outgoing, truth-seeking athletes, along with one twelfth of the world’s population.

sagIn truth, real astrology is far more complicated, with the moon sign, positions of the planets relative to the zodiac and everything’s position in the sky all playing a role in defining a unique natal chart. You may not believe that heavenly bodies have any effect on one’s personality, but you should at least know that there are far more nuances involved.

DumbledoreA real astrologer laughs at the idea of a horoscope for the day although no one could quarrel too much with today’s advice that encourages the Sages of the world to “Try not to approach everything negatively” and “Take greater pride in your work.”  Seriously, if one twelfth of the world did that today, would there be any cause for complaint?

obi wanBut back to Myers Briggs. I have one sister, and all of our lives people have remarked on how different we are. She dresses well, entertains beautifully, and knows the difference between a soup spoon used for cream soups and a regular one. (The cream spoon is round.) Although she’s smart, she just doesn’t get the whole idea of atoms much less subatomic particles and she knows almost nothing about how her car works.

My favorite clothing involves flannel, I read physics for fun, can change my oil and I don’t have a enough matching silverware for more than four people. Yet, according to Myers Briggs, she and I share the rare INFJ corner of the world. How can this be?

Well for one, the types do nothing to address degrees. I am barely a feeler rather than a thinker, while my sister is a guided strongly by her emotions. She is barely an introvert, while I am such a strong one that it is a marvel that I function at all in social situations.

bin LadenJungWhats more, Myers Briggs is founded on principals developed by Carl Jung and it attempts to sort out how people interact with the world. It does not describe their personal tastes or individual talents or their politics  or religion or ethical framework. Others have placed Mahatma Gandhi, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Adolph Hitler, Plato and Osama Bin Laden in the INFJ camp as well. Hey, these guys all have to go somewhere. And Carl Jung himself was in INFJ.

I find the Meyers Briggs classifications useful as a tool for understanding myself better, and for remembering that those around me often get and process their information differently than I do and that’s okay. It helps me to be myself and to appreciate who I am without the need to expect everyone else to be like me. My belief in the importance of that acceptance is, after all, one of the main reasons I wrote the novel y1.

For thoughts on how to write a novel like an INFJ, or like any other of the personality types, check out my x0 blog here.